Vuelta contenders react to Covatilla

The main protagonists on Wednesday's first mountain stage at the Vuelta react to the events on La Co

The main protagonists on Wednesday's first mountain stage at the Vuelta react to the events on La Co


Danilo Di Luca says he focusing on the Worlds, Alejandro Valverde sees his day's work as mainly positive, Carlos Sastre says he was in control of things, and Andrei Kashechkin admits he knows nothing about Janez Brajkovic. This is how the leading finishers on Wednesday's Vuelta summit finish on La Covatilla viewed the day's events.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas): "My goal was to win a stage so it's mission accomplished. Now I can focus on the World Championships in Salzburg. After pulling out of the Tour de France I told [Italian selector Franco] Ballerini I would be focusing totally on the Worlds. Ballerini wanted me to give a sign I was ready and I'm happy to have sent him one. I've got no ambitions on the overall at the Vuelta because there are riders like Valverde and Sastre who have prepared specifically for it and their condition will improve as the stages pass." The only down point for Liquigas was the enforced retirement of Britain's Charly Wegelius, who received numerous cuts and bruises on his left side when he crashed during the stage.

Caisse d'Epargne team manager Eusebio Unzue: "In spite of the fact that we did not win the stage, we have to be very happy with how the day went. We showed that our squad is a very solid and united behind our leader. Alejandro was feeling very good on all the climbs, while many of the favourites lost time today, even if those seconds or minutes lost are not yet really significant. All we can hope for now is for things to continue the same way and confirm what we saw today in the coming mountain stages."

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne): "It was a very difficult day, most of all because of the terrible heat. The stage was very important primarily to see who is in good condition and who is not. My feelings were very good but it is obvious that there is a long way left to Madrid. And there are many riders left in with a shout for final victory! Of course, winning the stage would have been very nice but today it was most important to gain time on the riders who were dropped and to lose as few seconds as possible to those who were in front. Today it was mostly a personal test, as well as for the whole team, and the balance is a very positive one."

Carlos Sastre (CSC): "The team made a tremendous effort to control the stage today and I would like to thank them all. The last mountain was a bit too small for an attack, but I think we were in control of things."

CSC team manager Kim Andersen: "It turned out OK for us. Before the stage we had agreed that we had to be aggressive, and luckily we had great help from Caisse d'Epargne. We kept everyone together until the last mountain, which was the main thing. The field has narrowed a lot since the beginning of the race, when there were so many favourites. Some of them lost quite a bit of time today, so now it's a lot easier to spot Carlos' main rivals for the overall win."

Andrei Kashechkin (Astana): "It was a very good stage, although very different from the stages of the Tour de France. It was very hot and we got into a good selection. I stopped working near the end because Valverde and Sastre had more responsibility. I attacked just at the end simply to try to catch Di Luca. But it is only the first mountain and I believe that Valverde and Sastre are going to improve a lot in the third week, and they still the favourites, plus Marchante, who attacked very hard. As for Brajkovic, I do not know him, he is still very young."

Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel: "Today was the first mountain stage and like any other grand tour - but especially the Vuelta - you never know what to expect. Our leader, Tom Danielson, did OK but I expect in the future for him to do a little better. But when the day was done he was only 22 seconds behind Valverde so I am not worried in the least. What can you say about Janez Brajkovic? To say he has been a pleasant surprise is truly an understatement. We brought him here to help his development and gain experience, but today really gave his business card to the cycling world!

"But this is his first grand tour, and while he keeps surprising everyone by showing his talent earlier than expected, I do not and will not consider him one of the race favourites. Not that it's not possible, but he is here for the experience and to get stronger. It's a common mistake, you win one stage and everyone thinks you're the king, but it's one we're not going to make. We'll put no pressure on him, he's super professional, and we'll see how things turn out."

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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